Mitigating Unconscious Bias

Increasing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) is the top human capital management priority for organizations in 2021, according to Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Outlook 2021 Study.

The first step is having a workforce that is aware of the unconscious biases we all have so they can try to mitigate their biases in interacting and collaborating with colleagues who are different from themselves. Only in the past two years have even half of organizations offered unconscious bias awareness training. Our research shows that 56% of employers offer it now.

Many organizations see unconscious bias awareness training as a solution. But it only provides a foundation for understanding unconscious bias and its impact. Organizations need employees with a more sophisticated understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion. Unconscious-bias mitigation is an ongoing process that never truly stops. The ultimate — and difficult — goal is for organizations to attain a culture of “unconscious inclusion” that enables organizations to fully realize the business benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Development Programs Offered by Employers Related to Diversity and Inclusion

Employees at all levels of the organization must have exposure to a variety of experiences and interactions to learn how to collaborate inclusively with people who are different than themselves. Embedding diversity, equity and inclusion in every aspect of work is the best way, over time, to mitigate unconscious bias.

Organizations that fail to invest leadership, time, energy and resources into DE&I — starting with unconscious bias awareness training and building from there — are missing a unique opportunity to improve their organizational culture, business competitiveness, employee engagement and talent retention.

• How can we do a better job leading, managing and funding DE&I efforts to improve the impact?

• How can we do a better job creating awareness of unconscious bias and building a culture of selfawarenessthat empowers “unconscious inclusion”?

• How can we embed the values of DE&I in all levels of the organization?

Making everyone in the organization aware of unconscious bias — what it is, that we all have it, and steps to help mitigate bias in daily interactions — is a critical foundation that more organizations must embrace. Beyond that, here are three important high-level strategies:

Take a Holistic Approach The key to success with DE&I is to take a strategic attitude that touches all aspects of the organization. A holistic approach starts by establishing values across the organization, including trust and transparency. Those values and others must be communicated and demonstrated effectively and consistently so every individual understands the organization’s principles, and their roles and responsibilities to apply them to everything they do.

Make Everyone Accountable for Upholding DE&I Values Everyone in an organization has a responsibility to understand and support that organization’s values, principles, strategies and initiatives around DE&I. Leaders have a responsibility to ensure their team members understand and support DE&I. There are many ways for leaders to work with their employees on DE&I, ranging from encouragement to learn and understand, to specific goals related to how DE&I impacts their roles in the organization. Leaders can consistently advocate for individuals to challenge themselves to learn about the messages they are sending to others and how they are perceived.

Determine Where Biases Are Most Likely to Affect Your Organization Biases tend to affect who gets hired, who gets promoted, who gets raises and who gets what kind of work, among other things. By knowing where bias is most likely to creep in, you can create strategies and processes to mitigate them. For example, to guard against unconscious bias adversely impacting hiring, there are several steps you can take:

• Edit job descriptions or use technology to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process.

• Maintain anonymity of all distinguishing characteristics in a resume (e.g., name, gender) during candidate screening.

• Standardize the interview process. Unstructured interviews and inconsistent interview questions allow biases to seep in and lead to bad hiring decisions.


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.